Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is That Really a Palindrome?

This is an article I wrote that was originally published in Teaching Children Mathematics way back in November 1995.

by OTTO, A Fifth Grade Mathematics Teacher

Just the other day in my fifth grade mathematics class I was astonished beyond belief. (Children can do that to teachers, even when the teacher has been teaching for twenty years.) The lesson was simple with an objective to teach a new math word, “palindrome.” The class went something like this -

“Has anyone heard of the word palindrome?”
No one answers and many quizzical looks.
“I'll give you an example of one using numbers, and let's see if you can guess what is unusual about the numbers.”
1221, 43534, 9001009 are chalked on the green board. Now the hands start to raise.
“These numbers are the same when read forwards or backwards. Can anyone give me an example of a number palindrome? Good, 4334 . . . and 87678, that's it. Now, can anyone think of some words that represent palindromes? Yes . . . MOM - good. POP, BOB - now you're getting it! Any others? LEVEL - excellent, RACE CAR - great.”
Cooper has his hand raised and is looking at me, not overly excited, just looking at me. When recognized, he casually says, “GO HANG A SALAMI, I'M A LASAGNA HOG.”
“What did you say, Cooper?”
Now I have to assess quickly whether he is trying to play the clown or if he has something to say. So, I ask him to repeat it one more time.
I proceed to write it on the board - the third time is a charm, and I finally begin to see the light! How did this kid do that? Obviously, he remembered it from a previous experience, but still, to remember it just like that. I write it down several times on paper before I can commit it to memory.
Before bringing closure to the lesson, Cooper raises his hand and says that he has one more. My response is “Fine, impress me.”
“A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL, PANAMA!” ... I was impressed.

For more information on palindromes check out these sites

1 comment:

Rick Regan said...

There's a book called "Go Hang a Salami! I'm a Lasagna Hog!: and Other Palindromes."

As for number palindromes, did you know they can occur simultaneously in multiple bases? For example, 313 in decimal is 100111001 in binary. (I wrote more about this at .)